Lyon College professor loans students equipment for at-home labs

Dr. Mary Jones provided her students with microscopes and slides so they could still get their hands-on learning experience this fall.

BATESVILLE, Ark — Think back to your biology class and all the equipment you had to use daily to learn the material. 

Now with classes being virtual, some labs are missing out on that hands-on instruction. 

But one Lyon College professor was determined to make sure her students didn’t lose that component. 

When Lyon College made the announcement they would be fully virtual for the fall, some students like Junior Hannah Wu began to worry.

“How am I supposed to do labs? Because biology majors, most of our biology classes comes with labs,” she said.

Especially for those like Senior Allison Mundy whose curriculum revolves around that hands-on experience. 

“The lab is really where you can contextualize and see what you learn in the class really applies to the real work,” she said. 

But Dr. Mary Jones, the assistant professor of biology, was determined to still give her students that advantage. 

“My main focus when we were told that we were going to do online teaching this semester was to find ways to keep it as engaging as possible,” she said. 

So Jones decided to provide microscopes and slides to the six upperclassmen in her Histology course before the semester began.

“It makes it feel more like a normal class. Yes, we aren’t next to each other, but we actually get to have a live and very interactive lab session,” she said. 

The microscopes and accessories are worth about $2,000 each, which means Jones loaned about $12,000 worth of equipment to her students. 

“I was joking earlier that I have like $3,000 worth of equipment right here on my school shelf and I have to keep my cat away from it,” Mundy said. 

This action by their professor made students like Mundy and Wu feeling special and grateful.

“She’s putting a lot of responsibility on us, but I’m glad that she trusts us and that she’s making Histology as real as it can be,” Wu said. 

This setup even proving to be an advantage over in-person labs, according to Jones. The microscopes have an attachment for the students’ phones, so they can show the class what they are seeing through the microscope onto their computer screens.

“I think they understand better the process I go through when I’m looking for something and they get to do it themselves, instead of me taking over and doing it for them,” she said. 

The students will return the lab equipment at the end of the semester.